Jordan valley, Thu 6.10.11, Afternoon
10:45 – Maale Efrayim Checkpoint
Manned, all Palestinian vehicles inspected.
11:00 In the area between the Gitit and Mekhora colonies, there are newly tended fields, by the settlers of course, for about a year now. The Palestinians do not tend fields at all in this region, as they have no water. About half a year ago they did grow squashes in hothouses, but the crop was later abandoned on the roadside. Now their hothouses are deserted and broken. Next to these, probably tended by those same settlers, a field lies green and lush, and at this hottest time of day, the sprinklers merrily spray water a-plenty in all directions. At the same time, Palestinians are prevented any access to local water supply and are forced to drive great distances and purchase water in tanks, in contrast to the waste we witness.
11:45 – Hamra Checkpoint – no vehicle traffic. A huge bulldozer parked in the middle of the checkpoint.
Gochia Checkpoint wide open
Palestinians tell us that tanks cross this point often and one of them has broken/twisted the metal gate. It now remains open to enable tank passage. Until two weeks ago “security needs” prevented Palestinians of the Jordan Valley from traveling to the center of their daily lives in the West Bank hills, except for specific days and hours, and with special permits and tight supervision of the Israeli army. So what has changed? How is it suddenly possible for them to cross without inspection? And if everyone may get through from here westwards into the West Bank, un-inspected, then what is the security point of all the other checkpoints?
We drove on to Al Farasiya, having heard just this morning of house demolitions there.
Well, house is a bit overstated. In the middle of an encampment with five structures, at 9 a.m. a military bulldozer demolished the sheep shed, and now the sheep lie exposed in the scathing sun. Amazing how the army chooses one structure, probably arbitrarily (so it appears), and demolishes it alone. The woman complains that they hardly have any food as it is, and not this… What will they do? The son, who speaks Hebrew, tells us that less than a month ago, on September 20th, agents of the Civil Administration of the Occupation arrived and handed them a demolition order for the large tent that stood where now the sheep shed had been. The family dismantled the tent in view of the officials and left only the small sheep shed intact. But the officer told them, as the son says: “We don’t care – we only want you to go away!”
We met EAPPI volunteers from Yanoun, who told us that last night, settlers uprooted 150 young olive trees at the village of Kusra.
We drove about 5 km north to Al Hamma, a small encampment by the roadside. Two days ago the army demolished their cowshed. The people weren’t home but the cowshed is already re-erected.
At 13:30 we decided to take advantage of the open Gochia gate and drive westward. I called an acquaintance who lives in Atuf, near Tamun village, in the hills, about 5 km south-west of the gate. He lives on the hillside overlooking the beautiful fertile valley of Al Baqa (south of Ras al Ahmar). His home has water and electricity supplied by the PA, as the southern hill is considered Area B, but downhill in the valley it’s Area C and there’s nothing. In the valley there is a green field whose owner has dug an ‘unlicensed’ well (no permits are issued in Area C), and of course there is a demolition order pending.
People told us that every few days two tanks enter the area through Gochia Checkpoint, climb the hill north of the Al Bawa valley, and open fire over the heads of the tent-dwellers in the valley. These run for their lives, horrified every time it happens. In fact they start running as soon as they see the tanks crossing Gochia. According to the map I hold the hill is marked as a firing zone, but not the valley. And anyway, firing tanks over the heads of residents, including children, women and the elderly?? Probably another cruel way to make them leave.